List of Governors Generals of Bengal and India

16-05-2024

09:00 AM

GS I

Sub-Categories:

Modern History

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Prelims:  History of India and Indian National Movement.

Mains: Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, and issues. The Freedom Struggle – its various stages and important contributors /contributions from different parts of the country.

Governors-General of Bengal and India - Chronology, Accomplishments, Reforms 

Upon their arrival in India, the British East India Company established a bureaucratic system with written laws, introducing various offices, including the "Office of the Governor of Bengal." Following the Regulating Act of 1773, the position's title evolved into the "Governor-General of Bengal," reflecting the region's developing governance mechanisms.

In 1833, the Charter Act brought another modification, renaming the role as the "Governor-General of India," acknowledging the expanding British influence across the Indian subcontinent. 

 

Governor of Bengal: Robert Clive 

Robert Clive played a significant role in the East India Company gaining control over Bengal, which eventually led to the conquest of the entire Indian Subcontinent, laying the foundation for the British Raj in India.

  • He served as the Governor of Bengal from 1757 to 1760 and again from 1765 to 1767.
  • Upon his return to India in 1765 as Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Bengal, he took measures to address the prevailing corruption within the company.
  • Clive prohibited the company's employees from engaging in private trade and accepting presents.
  • He established the 'Society of Trade' in 1765. 

 

Governors-General of Bengal

After the Battle of Plassey, the nomenclature of the Governor was changed to Governor General to resemble the authority given to Bengal over other presidencies.

Governor General 

Notable work and important developments during their tenure

Lord Warren Hastings (1773 - 1785)


 

  • He served the position of the inaugural Governor of the Fort William Presidency (Bengal).
  • He was the head of the Supreme Council of Bengal and effectively the first Governor-General of Bengal from 1772 to 1785.
  • He and Robert Clive were recognised for establishing the foundations of the British Empire in India.

Lord Cornwallis (1786 - 1793)

  • He was previously involved in the American Revolutionary War, where he surrendered to the Americans at Yorktown.
  • In 1786, he agreed to become the Governor-General of Bengal on the condition that he would also hold supreme military command.
  • He developed the Cornwallis Code, which contained provisions related to civil, policing, and judicial administration in British India. 
  • Under his supervision, the Cornwallis Code was developed, which outlined provisions for civil, policing, and judicial administration in British India.
  • Lord Cornwallis is recognised for establishing the groundwork for British rule in India; some of the key reforms included:
    • He implemented a policy of appointing individuals based on merit, which set the foundation for the Indian Civil Service.
    • He introduced the separation of the three branches of service: commercial, judicial, and revenue
      • The judicial powers of collectors were removed, and their role was limited to revenue collection.
    • Cornwallis is widely recognised in Bengal history for his association with the Permanent Settlement. 

Sir John Shore (1793 - 1798)

  • Unlike Lord Cornwallis, Shore held differing views regarding the permanent settlement.
  • He believed it was necessary to gather adequate information on land resources and the capabilities of the ryots(peasant cultivators) before reaching a permanent settlement.

Lord Arthur Wellesley (1798-1805)

  • During his tenure, the fourth and final Anglo-Mysore war took place, resulting in the death of Tipu.
  • Also, the Second Anglo-Maratha War occurred, leading to the defeat of Bhonsle, Scindia, and Holkar.
  • Wellesley implemented the "subsidiary alliance" policy, which was accepted by various rulers.
  • His time as Governor-General also saw the passing of the Censorship of the Press Act in 1799 and the establishment of Fort William College in 1800, aimed at training civil servants.

Lord George Barlow (1805 - 1807)

  • He assumed the role of the acting Governor General of Fort William in Bengal.

Lord Minto-I (1807 - 1813)

  • His successful negotiation and signing of the Treaty of Amritsar in 1809 with Punjab ruler Ranjit Singh marked a notable achievement. 

Francis Rawdon Hastings (1813 - 1823)

 

  • During his tenure, the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814 – 1816), also known as the Gorkha War, was fought. The war ended with the signing of the Sugauli Treaty in 1816, which ceded some of the Nepalese-controlled territories to the EIC.
  • He oversaw the third Anglo-Maratha War (1817-1818), which resulted in the end of the Peshwa system, and Marathas were forced to accept the subsidiary alliance system
  • Lord Hastings introduced the “Policy of Paramountcy”, which affirmed the authority of the Governor General to intervene in the internal matters of the Indian princely states and, if required, to override their power. 

Lord Amherst (1823 - 1828)

  • He played a significant role in the First Anglo-Burmese War, which concluded with the signing of the Treaty of Yandaboo.
  • During his tenure, the Barrackpore Mutiny of 1824 occurred, which arose due to British interference with Indian social taboos.
  • In 1824, under his leadership, the Sanskrit College was established in Calcutta, aimed at promoting Sanskrit education and scholarship.

 

Governors-General of India

The nomenclature has been changed from Governor General of Bengal to Governor-general of India in accordance with the centralising nature of the British power in India.

Governor General of India

Notable Work 

Lord William Bentinck (1828 - 1835)

  • He is renowned for implementing social and educational reforms in India.
  • Bentinck abolished the practice of Sati through the Bengal Sati Regulation Act of 1829. He also worked to suppress female infanticide and human sacrifice.
  • In collaboration with Thomas Babington Macaulay, Bentinck played a crucial role in establishing English as an instructional language in India.

Sir Charles Metcalfe (1835 - 1836)

  • Lord Metcalfe, also known as the Liberator of Indian Press, introduced liberal press policies.
  • He played a crucial role in finalising the Amritsar Treaty with Ranjit Singh in 1809, ensuring stability in Punjab until the first Sikh war in 1845.

Lord Auckland (1836 - 1842)

  • In 1838, Lord Auckland signed the Tripartite Treaty with Maharaja Ranjit Singh of the Sikh Empire and Shah Shuja of Afghanistan.

Lord Ellenborough (1842 - 1844)

  • His administration proved highly divisive, as his aggressive policies strained British India's relations with neighbouring regions.
  • The civilian population was displeased with him due to his misguided understanding of Indian issues.

Lord Hardinge-I (1844 - 1848)

  • He was involved in the First Anglo-Sikh War.

Lord Dalhousie (1848 - 1856)

  • Dalhousie's main focus in India was consolidating British power.
  • He spearheaded several progressive reforms in India, encompassing the establishment of railways, telegraph and postal networks, as well as the development of public infrastructure.
    • The completion of the Ganga Canal was also achieved during his tenure.
  • He is most remembered for the controversial Doctrine of Lapse policy, which is believed by many to have contributed to the Indian Revolt of 1857. 
    • Through the Doctrine of Lapse, he annexed states such as Satara, Oudh, and Jhansi, which contributed to discontent among Indian soldiers under Company rule.
  • Lord Dalhousie is often considered the "Maker of modern India." 
  • He established Anglo-vernacular schools, initiated social reforms such as banning female infanticide, and believed in the superiority of Western administrative systems.
  • He started engineering colleges to support the public works department and implemented military reforms
  • He abolished the practice of branding criminals.
  • He expanded the Legislative Council of India
  • He reformed the civil services by introducing open competition for recruitment.
  • He oversaw the annexation of Punjab and parts of Burma through wars with local rulers, including the Second Anglo-Sikh War.

Lord Canning (1856 - 1857)

  • He served as Governor-General of India and later became the first Viceroy of India after power was transferred from the East India Company to the British Crown following the 1857 revolt.
  • His initial actions were passing the Hindu Widows' Remarriage Act of 1856 and the General Service Enlistment Act of 1856
  • The Revolt of 1857 happened during his governorship. 
  • After quelling the rebellion, he implemented a policy of clemency, choosing not to punish the sepoys.

 

 

Previous Years Questions (PYQs)

 

Prelims

Q) At a time when empires in Europe were crumbling before the might of Napoleon, which one of the following Governors-General kept the British flag flying high in India? [1999]

(a) Warren Hastings 

(b) Lord Cornwallis

(c) Lord Wellesley 

(d) Lord Hastings

Answer: (d)

 

Q) The last major extension of British Indian territory took place during the time of : [2000]

(a) Dufferin 

(b) Dalhousie

(c) Lytton

 (d) Curzon

Answer: (b)

 

Q) Who was the Governor-General of India during the Sepoy Mutiny? [2006]

(a) Lord Canning 

(b) Lord Dalhousie

(c) Lord Hardings 

(d) Lord Lytton

Answer: (a) 

 

Q) Who among the following Governor Generals created the Covenanted Civil Service of India, which later came to be known as the Indian Civil Service? [2010]

(a) Warren Hastings 

(b) Wellesley

(c) Cornwallis 

(d) William Bentinck

Answer: (c) 

 

Mains

Q)  “In many ways, Lord Dalhousie was the founder of modern India.” Elaborate (2013)

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 

Q) Who is regarded as India's "Father of Civil Services"?

Lord Cornwallis revolutionised the civil service, so he is regarded as the "Father of Civil Service in India."

 

Q) What was the Doctrine of Lapse?

Lord Dalhousie instituted the Doctrine of Lapse. Under this doctrine, when an Indian ruler dies without a male heir, his kingdom is automatically transferred to the British. 

 

Q) Which Governor-General of India is known as the ‘Maker of Modern India’?

Lord Dalhousie is considered as ‘Maker of Modern India.’ 

 

Q) Who was the first Governor-General of British India?

William Bentinck became the inaugural Governor-General of British India subsequent to the enactment of the Charter Act of 1833, which elevated the position of the Governor-General of Bengal to encompass the broader jurisdiction of British India.

 

Q) Who was the first Governor-General of Bengal?

Warren Hastings held the position of the inaugural Governor-General of Bengal from 1772 to 1785.